Boycott Watch
December 11, 2006
Origins of the Wal-Mart Nazi t-shirt
Summary: Boycott Watch discovered the origin of the Nazi t-shirt Wal-Mart sold, failed to remove from their shelves and then refused to apologize about.
   Previously, Boycott Watch reported that Wal-Mart was offering t-shirts with the Nazi Death's Head logo, and how Wal-Mart failed to remove the shirts from their stores weeks after discovering the problem. In our report, we wrote how Wal-Mart refused to answer our questions about the origin of the shirts and how they ended up on company shelves in the first place. Despite Wal-Mart's refusal to comment, Boycott Watch has some of the answers, thanks in part to columnist Debbie Schlussel ( who broke the story that Wal-Mart failed to remove the shirts after more than three weeks of being aware of the problem.

   United Press International reports that shirts were made by Miami-based Orange Clothing Company and its owner Scott Deutsch, who is Jewish and took the image from a "trends" book. Deutsch obviously failed to do his homework and know exactly what he was putting on the shirts he sold to Wal-Mart, including a failure to discover if the image was perhaps under a copyright. The story and blame, however, does not stop there.

   "It is pure sloppy business to just copy an image and blindly use it" said Boycott Watch President Fred Taub. "This is not just a case of making one design based on another - some would call this artistic plagiarism. Moreover, Wal-Mart is handling this entire incident very poorly. That is simply bad public relations." Taub referred to Wal-Mart's refusal to answer questions about the case after it failed to remove the shirts from its stores when it was completely aware of the logo origin. Taub also stated Wal-Mart will likely be hurt financially as indicated by volume of emails received on the topic as well as the lack of any apology by Wal-Mart. Taub continued "Wal-Mart is acting like an 800 pound gorilla - they think they can do whatever they want because of their size but they forget who brings in the bananas."

   UPI further reported that Orange Clothing Company stands to loose $200,000 on the Nazi logo shirts on $10Million of annual sales. By our calculations, Orange Clothing probably works on a high-volume/low-margin model, perhaps a 5-7% margin, so this 2% loss is significant but won't cause the company to fail. The important question, however, is how will Scott Deutsch assure his customers this will not happen again?

   While Wal-Mart received a black-eye in this case, the company hurt itself by not responding properly. Wal-Mart did not take complete and decisive actions to remove the shirts and the corporate statement was less than endearing. Once again, Wal-Mart could have prevented the problem they now face but failed to avoid problems.

   More significantly for Scott Deutsch, companies purchasing logo items from Orange Clothing Company and other similar sources need to make sure the printed images being sold in their stores are in fact safe for retail, meaning not under copyright or other moral distribution restriction, such as the Nazi logo. Scott Deutsch will have to take action to make sure he does not adversely affect his customers in the future, and his customers would be wise to ask tough question about the products he and other suppliers are sending.

   Considering its recent alliance with groups promoting gay marriage (here and here) and the way it handled their Nazi t-shirt debacle, Wal-Mart appears to want to hurt itself with bad public relations and to alienate their customers. Perhaps they are now M-PC, or Masochistically Politically Correct, to coin a phrase.

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 ©2006 Boycott Watch